Page 1

ISBN 978-0-9904722-2-3


9 780990 472223

Contents Introduction




1 Live One Moment at a Time during the


First Weeks, and Just Keep Walking

2 When You Are Lonely, Get Back


Up When You Fall Down

3 You Must Go through Grief,


but There Is Hope

4 Grief Is a Process, Your Own


Unique Journey

5 Don’t Forget to Take Good


Care of Yourself

6 “You Are Sure to Be Happy Again,”


President Abraham Lincoln

7 Make New Memories on “The Firsts”


—Anniversaries, Birthdays, and Holidays

8 Grief Is Like Ocean Waves


with Ups and Downs

9 Finding Joy in Nature, Dirt Therapy, Humor, and Music



10 Celebrate Memories—Three


Hearts on a Twig

11 Honor Your Loved One by


Living Your Life Fully

12 The Question: What Can I Do


with My Broken Heart? About the Author


About the Artist





f you are reading this booklet, more than likely, someone you love has died. I am very sorry for your loss. With their passing, you have begun a journey that will change the course of your life forever, setting you on a path of grief with many unknowns. Perhaps your loss was anticipated. If you were the caregiver or family member, you may be physically weary as well as sad. Or maybe your loss was completely unexpected, sending you into a tailspin of disbelief and pain. Or, heaven forbid, maybe your child has died. No matter what your situation, your loss is the worst loss because it is your loss, the death of someone you held dear. After the death of his wife Joy, C. S. Lewis, the famous writer, compared grief to feeling like fear. I too felt afraid after my husband died and wondered if life could ever be worthwhile again without him. You may be wondering “How will I ever get through this?” Please believe that you can get through it. In fact, you must. What other choice do you have anyway? You may ask, “What can I do with my broken heart?” Before you read further, let me reassure you your heart can heal and that life can be joyful again. For right now, be patient with yourself and do what you can to get through one day, then another. There are no magical potions to hasten healing after a loss. Just as a broken bone takes time and rest to heal, a broken heart is not instantaneously healed—grief is a process. Hopefully this booklet will include some words or thoughts to help you along on your path. Keep reading and don’t give up hope. For now, just keep walking, one step at a time.


1 The hardest walk is walking alone, but it’s also the walk that can make you the strongest. —Author unknown

After a loss, you may feel alone and sad. But look around—there are stepping stones nearby to help you find your way.

Live One Moment at a Time during the First Weeks, and Just Keep Walking


fter the life of a person has been memorialized, some family members and friends appear to return to their regular routines as if nothing ever happened. Yet an overwhelming sadness may set in for loved ones left behind when they realize their lives are changed forever. A few days after my husband’s funeral several years ago, I had one of those moments. I was standing in front of the washing machine, ready to wash clothes. We kept our laundry soap and bleach on a shelf above the washer and dryer, and that’s also where my husband kept his ball cap that he often wore. When I inadvertently knocked his cap onto the dryer, I was struck with the realization he would never wear that ball cap again—he was gone and would never come back. My realization hit me with such force I could hardly breathe. I was overcome with grief; I cried. I felt so alone, so afraid.



Adjusting to life without your loved one can be scary, but there is hope. For right now, live one day at a time, one minute at a time if necessary. Put one foot in front of the other, and just keep walking.

STEPPING STONES for the First Weeks— What to Expect/What to Do 1. Your heart may feel like it is broken. You may yearn for your loved one, feel numb, frightened, depressed, angry, and have trouble concentrating. 2. A sudden loss can be devastating, almost unbearable. Even if a death was expected, you may find out you were not really ready for the loss. 3. You may question why your loved one died, and you may never find an answer. 4. When excruciating bouts of sadness overwhelm you, try to find someone you can talk to. 5. Actively make plans to feel physically safe if you are living alone—extra locks, motion lights, telephone and emergency numbers easily accessible. 6. Take your time deciding what to do with your loved one’s possessions. You can store them in totes until you are ready to make decisions. 7. After a loss, some dream about, sense the presence of, or smell the fragrance of their loved one. If you have a similar occurrence, you are not losing your mind.


2 Fall down seven times, get up eight. —Author unknown

Look around for the stepping stones through your grief—they are there, waiting to help you.

When You Are Lonely, Get Back Up When You Fall Down


hatever you do, don’t fall in!” my mother would say to my sisters and me as we headed out the door at my grandmother’s house in Tennessee. On hot summer days, we were eager to get to the small stream down the hill from the house to wade and explore. Then my mother would add, “We don’t have any other clothes with us, so don’t get wet!” We would hastily reply, “Okay!” over our shoulder as we left—we had no intentions of falling in. Sometimes there were rocks protruding from the shallow water, providing stepping stones across the stream, making it less likely that we would fall into the water and get in trouble with our mother. If we walked further up the hollow where the stream widened, we



had to cross on large, flat slippery rocks worn smooth and slick from years of water flowing over them. No matter how carefully we walked, one of us usually fell in the water and got soaking wet! Then we hoped for the sun and a hot breeze to dry us off quickly before our mother called for us. Grieving is like walking on slippery rocks, and there will be times that you will fall down when waves of sadness knock you over. When you fall, do not stay down. Get up. Shake off the water, allow the sunshine to dry you off, and just keep walking.

STEPPING STONES through Loneliness 1. Loneliness can set in after friends have expressed their condolences. Since loneliness is not good for your health, be proactive to do what you can to combat it. 2. Keep in touch with family members and friends—call them, email them, meet them for coffee, and stay involved in groups or church. 3. If seeing your loved one’s empty chair makes it too difficult to eat at the table, change your environment. Eat at a different place in the house, on the deck, or outside. 4. Research has shown that nature is healing, providing gentle breezes, sunshine, birdsongs, flowers, and squirrels or rabbits at play. 5. According to research, exercise, such as walking, can increase endorphins, the “happy chemicals” in our brains, that help lift depression. 6. Consider making small changes inside your house such as rearranging furniture, painting walls, or adding touches of colorful furnishings. 7. Music can add pleasant sounds to a too-quiet house. It can lift spirits and soothe frayed nerves. 8. Writing your thoughts and memories can be therapeutic. 9. Weekends and evenings may be very lonely, so deliberately plan small enjoyable activities. 13

6 I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. —Thomas A. Edison

You may feel alone, but choose to search for joy in your life.

“You Are Sure to Be Happy Again,” —President Abraham Lincoln


ust as a broken bone can heal, your broken heart can heal too— grief is a part of that healing process. Over one hundred years ago, President Lincoln experienced grief after several losses: the death of an infant brother; the death of his mother Nancy Lincoln when he was 9 years old; the death of a young woman he loved before he later married Mary Todd. After their marriage, Mary and Abraham had four sons—Robert, Edward, Willie, and Thomas (Tad). Edward died at the age of 4; Willie died at 12. President Lincoln was well acquainted with grief.



After his many losses, Lincoln said: “In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all and it often comes with bitter agony. Perfect relief is not possible except with time. You cannot now believe that you will ever feel better. But this is not true. You are sure to be happy again‌. I have had enough experience to make this statement.â€? Right now it may be hard to believe that life will be good again. But, for now, try to believe what President Lincoln said, and just keep walking.

STEPPING STONES toward Happiness 1. Cry if you need to or laugh if you feel like it. Both tears and laughter are healing. 2. If you wish you could have done things differently before your loved one died, try to forgive yourself and take a step forward. 3. Trust yourself. Believe that your life has a purpose and search for ways to make it happen. 4. Your life is forever changed, so take steps toward reaching a new future. 5. Look for ways to use the talents and skills you already have and consider learning something new. 6. Research shows that doing good things for someone else is therapeutic for you. 7. Studies show that volunteering has many benefits, including satisfaction and a longer life. Consider volunteering for a hospice, a food bank, a senior center, a hospital, or a church. 8. Give yourself some time before you make major changes in your life. 9. Celebrate each small achievement, every milestone during your grief walk.


11 They are not dead who live in lives they leave behind. —Hugh Robert Orr

Look for the beauty of nature—clouds, sunrises and sunsets, flowers, birds, and butterflies.

Honor Your Loved One by Living Your Life Fully


etty, a lady whose husband died a few years ago, recently told me a story. She said her husband knew he was dying and he wanted to encourage her to move forward after his death. Her husband told her, “I am the one who is dying. You are not the one who is dying. I want you to keep on living.” A quote from a former high school principal whose wife died: “I honor my wife’s life by how I live mine. She would want me to live.” Both Betty and the former principal have chosen to stay actively engaged with people and activities. They are bright spots to those around them. In 1969, after four parents experienced the deaths of their sons, they founded Compassionate Friends, a bereavement group for families of children who have died. Since then, Compassionate Friends has helped thousands of grieving parents.



After Emily Perl Kingsley gave birth to Jason, a baby with Down Syndrome, Emily used her writing talents to integrate adults and children with disabilities into the format of the Sesame Street program. After John Walsh’ young son was kidnapped and killed many years ago, John has tirelessly worked to help solve mysteries of other kidnapped children, bringing closure to many grieving parents. Honor your loved one by living your life fully, by making the world a better place. And just keep walking.

STEPPING STONES to Honor Your Loved One 1. Be grateful for the influence, the fingerprints your loved one left on your life. 2. Cherish your memories of time spent with your loved one. Cherish the love, the experiences, the fun, and the lessons learned together. 3. Even though you are sad, look around for blessings in your life, and be thankful. 4. Search for unique, tangible ways to recognize and carry on the legacy of your loved one—write their story, plant flowers or a tree, give a scholarship, or make a donation in their memory. 5. Don’t be afraid to talk about your loved one’s life with family and friends. Keep their memory alive. 6. Honor your loved one’s life by how you live yours. 7. Use the lessons you have learned from your own grief walk to help others who are hurting after a loss.


12 The man who moved a mountain is the one who started by taking away the small stones. —Old Chinese Proverb

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how. —James Russell Lowell

The Question: What Can I Do with My Broken Heart?


hat can I do with my broken heart has been asked by millions through the centuries, and each person must find his/her own answers. We cannot choose when we are born or when we die. But we can make choices about what happens in the middle. So choose hope and believe your broken heart can heal. Tell yourself, “You can do this—you have to do this!” What other choice do you have? You may have to establish new routines, make new friends, and find your “new normal.” This can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Someday your grief will soften and become more manageable. As you integrate your loss into your life, the intense waves of grief will become gentler and further apart.



Healing does not come instantaneously, but healing does come. For now, be patient, look around for the blessings in your life, and live life as joyfully as possible. As you move forward, don’t forget to love. Show love to others through your kind words and actions—you will honor your loved one and build a rewarding life. Cherish your memories—they will help sustain you in the tough times. And don’t forget to laugh—it is good medicine for the soul. Hope, believe, laugh, love, dream, and live! Theodore Roosevelt said, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” As my dear friend Leah told me, “Do what you can,” and just keep walking.

STEPPING STONES for a Broken Heart 1. Death cannot close the book on a love story. Love does not end at death. 2. Your loss will be a part of you for the rest of your life. Even though life will be different, it can be fulfilling again. 3. Be thankful for lessons you have learned from your grief. When the time is right, lend a hand to someone else who is grieving. 4. Passing on kindness to others will help your heart heal—doing good is good for you. 5. Do not feel guilty for enjoying life again, and remember that laughter is good medicine! 6. Actively search for a new purpose for your life—there is a purpose. 7. Honor your loved one by making something good come from your loss. 8. Dare to dream new dreams. Robert Frost said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life—it goes on.” We too must go on. I wish you healing and joy.


ISBN 978-0-9904722-2-3


9 780990 472223

Profile for Mennonite Press Inc

Stepping Stones Through Grief  

What Can I Do with My Broken Heart—Stepping Stones through Grief is a 36-page booklet of mini stories and strategies to help anyone who is g...

Stepping Stones Through Grief  

What Can I Do with My Broken Heart—Stepping Stones through Grief is a 36-page booklet of mini stories and strategies to help anyone who is g...

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